Friedrich A. Hayek was the leading light in classical liberalism in the 20th Century. He was also well versed in psychology and political thought. He witnessed the acceptance of socialism in Europe, which developed into the totalitarian states of National Socialist Germany and the Fascistic Italy. He watched as the loss of individual freedoms was replaced with “freedom from want” by ever increasing socialist governments.
Today, most of Europe has been enveloped by socialism in varying degrees. As the United States – the home of individual freedom – has turned over an ever increasing level of control to the state, the need for the words of Friedrich Hayek couldn’t be timelier.
Written between 1940 and 1944,”The Road to Serfdom” was written for a British audience that was warming to the idea that socialism could be the answer to the ups and downs that the free market holds. It was the panacea that would rid the economy of boom and bust cycles. In the most basic translation, socialism was the answer to the question: “how can the nation provide security to the people?”
With the writing of this book, people – not only in Britain but the United States and other countries – purchased Mr. Hayek’s book at rarely seen levels. Why did they buy it then? Why has it sold nearly half a million copies?
It details how socialism – in real terms with real examples – can strip an individual of his liberty for the benefit of the collective. As Venezuela has made clear, the power wrested from the individual and put in the hands of the state will lead to socialist totalitarian rule, even today.
Can it happen in the United States?
Yes, it can.
According to Jonah Goldberg in his 2008 publication “Liberal Fascism,” it has already happened. It happened under Woodrow Wilson’s progressive administration. Mr. Goldberg points out several examples of the power of the state over the individual and how the progressive movement was actually the precursor to similar movements in Europe prior to World War II.
In America, the response to the executive actions, and other unilateral moves made by the Obama Administration’s introduction of European-style socialism, gave birth to the development of a decentralized but powerful grass-roots movement entitled the Tea Party. This movement successfully turned over both the House of Representatives in 2010 and the U.S. Senate in 2014 to more conservative members to combat what they saw as further movement to the left.
Over the last seven years – 10 for that matter – a great deal of liberty has been swept away. It has in a large part been due to the compliant nature and acquiescence of the GOP leadership to the whims of the Obama Administration. This, in turn, has led to the rare use of pressure by the more conservative wing of the Republican caucus to force their own Speaker John Boehner (R - OH) to resign his position.
The progressives of today still look to the federal government to step in when things don’t go right. In the past they have taken control of the auto industry, the financial industry, the insurance industry, and the healthcare industry. If the federal government ever institutes the “Cap and Trade” bill, and the fairness doctrine, there would be little – if anything – that they would not have some control over. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would have policing power that would be all powerful, binding and outside the borders of our Constitution.
As Mr. Hayek states in “Road to Serfdom:”
“Our generation has forgotten that the system of private property is the most important guarantee of freedom. It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves. When all the means of production are vested in a single hand, whether it be nominally that of ‘society’ as a whole or that of a dictator, whoever exercises this control has complete power over us.”
If you haven’t read Mr. Hayek in a while or ever, take the opportunity to read one of the most brilliant pieces of economic/political work to grace parchment in the last 100 years.
Why Hayek, why now?
The words of Mr. Hayek written over 70 years ago point out that with all that the federal government can “provide,” it can’t provide you freedom. Individual freedom is a natural right. We were born free, not the subject of a king or queen. We were not born into a world where the rights come from government. We, as the American nation, are the government; we established a government built on negative liberties. That is, we built the Constitution on what the government cannot do in regards to our individual liberties.
Many Americans would gladly travel down that dirt road to serfdom. They would be content to give up those liberties for “security and freedom from want.”
As for this American, I’ll never be a serf!